Win-Win 3.5 Stars
Clark Brewer May 10 2011
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director Tom McCarthy has put together a fine third film in “Win Win” (other 2 films: “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor”). It features a normal suburban family with normal suburban problems. Paul Giamatti is "Mike Flaherty," an attorney with a small practice who's also a high school wrestling coach. He's not perfect, but he's doing the best he can. He and his wife "Jackie" (the always wonderful Amy Ryan) are busy raising two kids and leading their quiet life. But when Mike gives into temptation to become the guardian of one of his elderly clients (for the $1,500 a month commission) things get to be a little more complicated. The client's grandson, a troubled 16-year-old kid named "Kyle" (Alex Shaffer) comes to stay with his grandfather while his mother goes through her drug treatment. Since his grandfather is living in a retirement home, Kyle ends up staying with Mike and Jackie, who feel compelled to help the kid out. Kyle also turns out to be an exceptional wrestler and enrolls in high school and becomes the star wrestler.
The film is funny and sweet and paints a really true-to-life portrait of its characters. No one is purely good or purely bad, they're all just human. They make mistakes, whether large or small, and they try to make up for them.
Paul Giamatti is great in this, giving a much lower key performance than some of his previous works like “American Splendor” and “Sideways”. " He falls into the suburban dad character very well and wears the character's skin rather nicely. Amy Ryan is always a joy to see on-screen. Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor are fun to watch as well, but serve generally to provide comedic relief. Alex Shaffer, as Kyle, was in real life all-state wrestling champion and in his very first acting role; he holds his own among some heavyweight actors. His sort of deadpan, monotone delivery works very well for the character of Kyle. And of course he displays remarkable skills as a wrestler.
“Win Win” is an amazing, near perfect indie sleeper. The whole movie can be summed up in one word: authentic. The characters do not overact, the plot is fun and believable, and the whole thing fells so real. It is a great example of what a family drama/comedy should be: fun, believable, and relatable. This movie was excellent from beginning to end.
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